March 31, 2014.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
This is probably one of the hardest passages in the New Testament. This is Luke’s account of the sermon on the mount, or at least a sermon similar to it, that contains a good bit of the teaching of our Lord and Savior. Where as Matthew tends to focus on the spiritual side of things, Luke seems to focus more on the physical side of life. Matthew will record when Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in Spirit,” where Luke will record “Blessed are the poor.” Does this mean they contradict one another? I don’t believe so. I tend to believe that Jesus taught much of the same lessons at the different places he went, focusing on different elements at different places. It is interesting who records which account.
Other than this, the sermon on the mount, or so it is called, is well known in the Christian worldview, as most every Christian would know what is being referred to or will have at least read through it once or twice. But that is not what makes it hard. What makes it hard is actually applying it to our lives. I am convinced we read though this section and say, “well, that’s some good teaching! Ok, next.” We don’t often stop and actually analyze what Jesus is calling us to do. How much different would our lives be if we practiced everything that Jesus teaches in this section. I think my life would be significantly different, unfortunately. I am trying to mold my life in a more Christ like way, but let me tell you, this is hard.
But isn’t that the point? Listen to the next section:
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Doesn’t it make sense that doing something that our natural, individualistic instincts tell us not to would be what gets people’s attention? If everything we do out of “love” is so that we can get something back, is that not what the world’s definition of love is? How will people see Christ if we are not expressing through our actions a love that is higher than this? True compassion. True care. True love.
This is how Christianity is spread. This is why it is appealing. This is our calling. We are to love the world as God so love the world. This does not mean approving of sin. This means having compassion on the souls within. For we have all fallen short of the glory of God, and it’s our job to get the good news of reconciliation out. Jesus came to be a pure and holy sacrifice. He completed his part. He left the spreading up to us. Isn’t it interesting that in the conversion stories in acts where people had a vision, Jesus never told them what to do, but rather sent a preacher to them? Paul said that it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save the lost. It is an important task that he has left up to us. Are we up to the challenge?
Let us dwell on the words of Christ.
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 5-7, Luke 6.
Be strong and courageous.